The Dangers of Openly Identifying with Mental Illness

Detail of Self portrait with Bandaged Ear painted by Vincent van Gogh 1889 Courtauld Institute Gallery interior Somerset HouseS.e. smith, writing at Bitch Media:

Fighting the stigma against mental illness is an ongoing battle, and often an uphill one, as illustrated by many of the posts in this series. Sometimes it seems like we make two strides backward for every stride we take forward in terms of reframing the way people think, talk about, and handle mental illness. A slew of stigma-fighting campaigns have erupted in the last few years: Stamp Out Stigma in the UK, a US version, Bring Change 2 Mind, Time to Change, and many others. Despite the efforts of such campaigns, stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness continue to be problems, illustrating that we have a long way to go.

These campaigns approach public outreach and education from a number of perspectives, but many of them focus heavily on the coming out model. The queer community deserves all due credit for popularizing this approach to fighting social attitudes; by reminding people that we’re here, we’re queer, and they may as well get used to it, we weaponize the stigma against our identities and force people to confront their internalized attitudes about queerness. Yet, at the same time, coming out as queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and any number of other permutations of human sexuality beyond monogamous heterosexuality can be extremely dangerous, highlighting the major flaw in this model: It’s not safe. Coming out is only as effective as it is safe, and the only way to make it safe is by encouraging more people to come out—to normalize it—which creates a double bind.

This is also the case with coming out campaigns for mental illness. A number of prominent celebrities have started openly talking about anxiety and depression, though fewer are willing to disclose what I often think of as the “big three” of mental health stigma: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia. In a handful of cases, celebrities have basically been forcibly outed. Out of respect for their privacy I’m not going to provide specific examples in this case, but I can think of at least two in the last year.

People are told that the only way to end stigma is to come out, and that the best way to educate members of the public and to reach out is to be open about mental illness. While I understand the sentiments behind this attitude, people who argue this ignore the very real dangers in coming out, and often end up underscoring the good crazy/bad crazy dichotomy in the process. It is safer to come out with some forms of mental illness than others, and pretending otherwise makes it impossible to confront the very real risks associated, not just with the big three but with all mental health diagnoses.

Coming out, with any mental illness, can result in losing your job and it can be disastrous for your career as a whole if you are in a small, close-knit industry. It can be a relationship-ender, and there is a delicate balance and dance that happens with deciding when and where to disclose mental illness in relationships. If you wait too long, you’re being deceptive. If you say something too early, you may be written off as a potential partner because you’re mentally ill. It can also destroy friendships, even very old ones, because suddenly you are dangerous and frightening because of a diagnosis. It can make you more vulnerable to abuse, because people with mental illness are viewed as legitimate targets.

Read more here.

99 Comments on "The Dangers of Openly Identifying with Mental Illness"

  1. erte4wt4etrg | Nov 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm |

    This entire society is clearly fucking insane and yet only some seem to get to take the heat for that. Canaries in the coal mine? We encourage ‘mental illness’, like seriously wtf is going on

  2. I have struggled with anxiety and depression (edit: most of my) life. In fact, they are what drove me to the Amazon and ayahuasca.
    Still struggling . . .

    • Liam_McGonagle | Nov 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

      Funny how the stigma attaches to the sufferer rather than the disease vectors (i.e., authority figures with unrealistic and intrusive demands).

      • Yeah well, our current society is one fucking huge disease vector. I am truly surprised to that more people just don’t go totally ape shit.

        • Liam_McGonagle | Nov 26, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

          That used to be the role of busy work.

          But these days bureaucrats prefer to simply rig the employment statistics rather than keep people ‘productively occupied’, so I imagine we’ll start seeing a lot more of that in future.

          I guess everyone’s got their own thing going on. I not only have a huge malevolant streak myself, but am also incredibly lazy, so I find it quite easy to just kick back and enjoy watching society destroying itself, all according to its own plan.

          In other words, I don’t let the horror overwhelm me like some others might.

          • Wow, mean and lazy, thanks for the warning;)
            I know so many people who are in total denial about their own issues, sleeping in their Matrix pod, dosed to the gills on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals just to keep functioning.
            I do get affected by the horror, lies, propaganda and injustice I see all over the place, but fortunately I’ve managed to hold onto a sense of humor. Without that . . .

          • Liam_McGonagle | Nov 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm |

            Yes, humor and philosophy.

            You and I might be a little different from most folks who viciously insist, against all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, on the determinancy of human nature rather than the breathtaking splendor of its vast mysteries.

            That is the job of media, education (or more properly, for the most part ‘training’) and professional discipline: to narrow the options, slowly make the world a smaller, uglier place. Like the filthy washroom in a provincial rail station in Raskolnikov’s vision of Hell.

            I am no better than he, in that I cannot avoid this horrible place, but my experience of it is signficantly better than his. I’m not locked inside it, pining hopelessly for a way out. I am out, on the outside watching the mayhem within.

    • Conspiracy Carrot | Nov 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm |

      I’m in the same boat and have been considering, for a very long time, taking similar actions. Would you tell us more about your journey to the Amazon & your experience with ayahuasca? Or have you blogged about it somewhere? Thank you.

      • I have not written about my experiences with ayahuasca, but I guess if you’re curious, I’d be willing to answer questions.

    • InfvoCuernos | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:32 pm |

      You can get ayahuasca on now? J/K

  3. Personally, I feel much more at ease around people who are little mental. It’s the happy, shiny normal people I don’t trust.

    • Fake it ’til you make it only goes so far. The Pollyanna principle is plastic and fantastic! The morose are prone to have a greater grip on static reality tunnels.

    • Conspiracy Carrot | Nov 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm |


  4. DeepCough | Nov 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

    The best way to end stigma for mental illness is to remove any aspect of criminality connected to it. I just don’t see how people who technically have a disease should be put before a judge on account of it.

  5. Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |

    There is no evidence for the chemical imbalance theory , that there even is mental illness. There are no biomarkers to prove mental illness is even an illness . you’re part of the problem even using the word mental illness . the DSM is dead . DSM 5 no longer has the concensus the 4th did .

    • I guess we could quibble about terms forever., what “is” or what “isn’t.” But, the fact remains, that whatever term or label you care to use, some people actually do suffer from, for lack of a better term, “mental illness.”
      You could apply a different model, say evil spirits. That does not really change what the “depressed” or “possessed” person is suffering from, though it would certainly have an influence on treatment modalities, etc.
      I guess that perhaps the frame “mental illness” or the disease model, may not be Ideal, and that another might be more effective in describing and treating afflicted people. I don’t know what that would be. Are you suggesting an alternative concept?

      • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm |

        The model they use is broken. There is no alternative concept. There is no evidence that any of the alternative symptom clusters they divine to be abnormal from normal, whatever that is, are abnormal at all, noris there evidence that they are illnesses . if you’re using the word mental illness at all you’re talking quakery

      • mannyfurious | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm |

        I agree with this to an extant, but the choices shouldn’t be narrowed to between “ill” or “possessed.” The language used guides the conversation, and we’re having the wrong conversation when we speak of “mental illness.”

        • Of course, I thought it was obvious that the terms were essentially just different lables/signifiers for the same thing. I just used those two as examples. They could be pretty much anything you like.

      • Tchoutoye | Nov 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm |

        The term “mental illness” incorrectly mirrors itself on physical illness. Where in the case of physical illness there is an objective, quantifiable standard of health, there is no such objective standard in the case of “mental illness”, which I would define as an impaired ability to (wilfully) adapt to societal norms. Yet such norms are constantly changing and, often enough, ethically debatable. Perfecting conformity to an art form, someone like Adolf Eichmann would be considered mentally sane in Nazi Germany. In other societies less so.

    • Rather than “mental illness,” would you suggest the word “crazy,” “stupid,” “irresponsible,” or “evil?”

      • Tweaked mellon?

      • Bat shit? Raving looney? Toys in the attic? Few samichez shy of a picnic? Elvis has left the building?

      • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

        There is no factual basis for the term “mental illness”, they’re just arbitrary symptom clusters. Homosexuality was an illness well into the 1970s , but the definition of that as an illness, like being depressed or bipolar, was once again i re-emphasize, totally arbitrary.

        • So what do I call someone who hears voices telling him to kill me?

          • mannyfurious | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

            In terms of “mental illness,” schizophrenia and other hallucinatory conditions are, at this point, the only conditions that would qualify as veritable “illnesses.” But even then, “brain disease” is more accurate than “mental illness.”

          • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

            bingo. a brain disease is not a mental illness, you can define it like other biological illnesses.

            psychiatry and stuff in the dsm-v a lot of that stuff is wholly arbitrarily created categories with no basis in sound medical science

          • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm |

            You talk to the voice until the voice becomes a guiding thought and helpful. The way to deal with what you’re talking about is just what I said. There is scientific evidence that in other cultures hearing voices is natural, and although they begin menacing they turn into guiding thoughts if engaged in a healthy way.

            look up Hearing Voices in Accra and Chennai: How Culture Makes a Difference to Psychiatric Experiences on youtube

            also google search for BBC and Avatar Therapy

          • I didn’t ask what to do if I hear voices telling me to kill myself.

          • kowalityjesus | Nov 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm |

            It’s like my uncle says: “we learn to accept them as a part of who we are.” Try Christianity.

          • I tried it already, for 30 years.

          • kowalityjesus | Nov 26, 2013 at 11:28 pm |

            Well give me your address and I will send you some CDs of the best fucking music you’ve ever heard.

          • Better than Alfred Schnittke or Now We’ve Got Members or Radian? I doubt it.

          • kowalityjesus | Dec 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm |

            I have listened to the complete quartets of Schnittke, at the emphatic recommendation of a brilliant friend. That was life-shaping..

            It’s funny, music is like medicine, in the aboriginal American sense. It can either be poison or panacea for a given individual. It is easy to fallaciously think that the music you find so great is the objective superlative of good music, and everybody else should think so too. Strangely though, this is sometimes true. We often don’t appreciate how subjective our experiences are, and how drastically our tastes change depending on our setting and level of maturity/inculcation. BUT if there is such a thing as “good taste” then there is surely such a thing as “good music.” Therefore, go listen to this:


          • kowalityjesus | Dec 8, 2013 at 1:32 am |

            that was pretty awesome, thank you!

          • kowalityjesus | Nov 27, 2013 at 12:22 am |

            OR you could play video games, a recompense for having to live in modern society.

          • embitteredfemaleveteran | Nov 30, 2013 at 1:34 am |

            What do I do to convince my significant other that he has a problem? I’ve tried just reasoning with him, I’ve tried talking with him. He’ll ask me if I was letting someone talk to him through my computer, and I just say no and I try to ignore it. But his anger is becoming verbally abusive. And I have enough problems as it is coping with that much stress. He promised me he would try to make himself better, that he would get help- see a therapist, try CBT. But he keeps making excuses. He says “They won’t help me. They just try to make me take drugs and I won’t do that anymore.” I keep telling him I don’t want him to take drugs if it makes him uncomfortable, but I need him to do something. He scares me sometimes, and I don’t want to hear our child say “Daddy, why are you making Mommy cry again?” He promised me he would get help, and he’s not doing it. I don’t know what to do.

          • It may be helpful to speak with a mental health specialist and ask for their suggestions. My heart goes out to you, I have experienced living with an angry, verbally abusive, and mentally ill person. No one should have to put up with that, in my opinion.

            These may be a good place to start.




          • embitteredfemaleveteran | Dec 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm |

            Thank you, very much. I was so busy reading the links you’d provided that I forgot to say thank you, and I’m sorry for neglecting that. But I really mean it. It’s really nice to know I’m not the only one going through this…

          • You are welcome.

          • I’m sorry. My family had a similar problem with my father. The sad, harsh truth is that he never got help and our lives have improved since he died. You might want to try some counseling yourself, if you aren’t already, to find and develop options. But if you get your child help early it could save his or her life.

          • embitteredfemaleveteran | Dec 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

            Thank you. As a vet, I’m lucky enough to get free BH care, and I rather enjoy being able to take advantage of it. I just learned that the VA also offers couples counseling, and I’m going to see if he would be willing to go with me. But, thank you for your concern. It means a lot to not feel alone, sometimes.

          • Daniel Gill | Dec 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

            I still have a longtime friendship with a guy who has schizophrenia. He has a son. He had a long time relationship with a girl . He has a job. He has a great relationship with his family. and he’s really stable. I’ve known others with schizophrenia and for the most part they are ABNORMALLY calm and collected. they tend to be solitary and aloof but often extremely intelligent and creative. i know of people who can deal with it. i dont know how to help your SO but i have spoken plainly here that there is not a small amount of research into dealing with schizophrenia healthily without medication largely based upon anthropological studies from other societies but these are people working in universities in the U.S. like Stanford these are University professors with PHDs these are not crazy people.

          • Your opinions might be worth more than a fart if they were based on personal experience, but you are a parrot…over and over again “I read this here” and “I read this there”–NOTHING from your living experience.

            Do you even have friends or family? I’m not trying to mock you; I’m trying to ascertain whether or not you even have the opportunity to form personal, experiential, judgements about human behavior.

          • Daniel Gill | Dec 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm |

            I’m married. I have plenty of experience. The first time I heard about reiki was from a schizophrenic girl. and I’ve had close friends who were schizophrenic. i had friendship with a girl i used to live with who was vietnamese and , again, her cultural background having been westernized complicated her illness. i’ve met a lot of people who were the real deal and suffered for it besides myself. my personal life is none of your concern and if you wanted a list of references I have extremely good ones,

            If you visit BeyondBorderlands . com there is a good post there where I overview the research I have done. I’m very young compared to most people here I havent reached my 30s yet and I’ve not graduated from University but I’ve done far more research into psi than many other people here

          • “I havent reached my 30s yet and I’ve not graduated from University”

            Neither have I (age or school), but I’m no longer pompous enough to think that extensive study is equivalent to life experience.

            Married or not, schizophrenic friends or not, your experience is still limited and you are emphatically NOT qualified to speak for every schizophrenic’s experience (let alone all of the other categories of mental illness).

            I have a relative who suffers (and it IS suffering) from this “condition”. I have no way of knowing whether or not his suffering is because of the condition itself, or because of how he was treated as a result of diagnosis. I only know that he has to be taken care of, practically like a child.

            As someone who has been diagnosed as ADD, myself, I am inclined to agree with you about certain points, but only because I personally reject this diagnosis.

            I personally believe that the conditions labelled “ADD” are largely a natural response to an ever-increasing information assault…but ADD isn’t schizophrenia and I can’t even begin to pretend to know what life is really like for my relative.

            You are constantly asserting that you know better than others do about their own experiences.

            That…is crazy.

          • Daniel Gill | Dec 12, 2013 at 12:35 am |

            you really have no idea who you’re talking to, in fact. if you would have looked at T. M. Luhrmann’s lecture on youtube like i had asked you would be able to discuss with me, but you haven’t. in asian cultures, the spirit possession causes clairaudience and they hear the voices of their kin. schizophrenia in other cultures becomes complicated issue in this way. had i known of her research when i was younger i would have been able to save my friends lives .

          • My, aren’t we self-important? Who, exactly, do you think you are?

            I know your position; you have not changed a note to your tune in over a year. I even added some of your suggested reading list to the bottom of a (very, very long) reading list, so I may get around to it some day; I may not.

            If you continue being a prick, I’ll very likely decide to save myself the embarrassment of common association with anything floating around in your inner universe and skip it.

          • Daniel Gill | Dec 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm |


      • mannyfurious | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

        Those shouldn’t be our only choices, though. It’s not whether a person is “ill” or “crazy” or “stupid” or “possessed.” The person is having difficulty coping with certain aspects of life. Nothing more or less.

  6. Graham Marco | Nov 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm |

    What if this were atheists we were talking about?

  7. mannyfurious | Nov 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

    The dangers of openly identifying with “mental illness” is that it places the onus on the sufferer rather than on the society that imposes the suffering. There is no such thing as “mental illness.” What you’re feeling is your body and mind telling you that something is terribly wrong with the world and you should do something differently. The danger with labeling yourself is that you take a few pills or whatever and you continue to subject yourself to the very thing which is making you sick: your civilization.

    I work in the mental health field, and I have come to believe that it is possible to live IN the society but not be OF it. Freedom is possible. But you first have to identify what the real problem is, and it’s not you.

    It’s no coincidence that studies routinely show that persons living in so-called 3rd-world countries don’t suffer from “mental illness” in the same way we do. It’s because they’re too busy trying to survive to worry about all the meaningless shit we worry about. You know, “status,” “success,” “money,” “am I manly enough,” etc.

    • Calypso_1 | Nov 26, 2013 at 5:15 pm |

      It galls me to no end when persons in the mental health field make statements like “There is no such thing as “mental illness.”
      I cannot even reconcile the gaps in education level among personnel given the vast amount of material that is available for those motivated to learn.
      Perhaps I should go burn my copies of Cortical Deficits in Schizophrenia or The Handbook of Neuropsychiatric Biomarkers, Endophenotypes & Genes.
      I’ll just join our MHTs and housekeeping staff who try to cast the demons out of the patients.

      • mannyfurious | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

        People like you are so reactionary that people like me question whether it’s even worth it to engage in a “discussion.”

        Yes, things happen in the brain to someone suffering from various kinds of “mental illness.” There is no shortage of literature/research that is clear on that. On that point you are correct.

        Where the literature is wanting is in drawing a causal conclusion between the functions in the brain and the behaviors. There are some exceptions, such as schizophrenia, or any other hallucinatory condition. In terms of behaviors or specific “emotions” or “feelings” there is no proof of causation.

        The example I always throw out is the case of a hungry person. Let’s say I get picked up for stealing bread. Let’s say I keep getting picked up for stealing bread, to the point that it’s a recurring problem fro me. So the authorities send me to a psychiatrist for an eval. After all the tests are concluded, the psychiatrist looks at my results and determines I’m suffering from a mental condition called “hunger.” You see, when a person is suffering from “hunger” various chemicals are released to and from the brain (e.g. cortisol, galanin, etc.) and various electrical signals are disrupted. Therefore, it must be a mental illness, correct?

        The question becomes did I need a pill to regulate the chemicals in my brain, or did I need a sandwich?

        The same holds true in, say, a case of depression. The chemical processes occurring in the brain during depression have not been proven to be the cause of the “illness.” So how do we know it’s not the symptom, just like hunger is the symptom of not getting enough food. Maybe the brain chemistry responsible for symptoms of depression is the body’s way of letting itself know that there is something not right in one’s environment. It’s no different from physical pain in that when you are hurting physically, you know you need to address something that isn’t healthy. Why is emotional pain any different.

        And I get it. You’re smart. You spend all your time on this website throwing out semi-obscure references and talking down to people. I hope that’s working out for you.

        • Calypso_1 | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

          your reference might be applicable if the person had a specific problem with feeling hunger even if they had eaten. Or a ‘chemical imbalance’ causing them not to eat when they were hungry.

          I’m glad you get people like me. Your hopes do indeed flourish.

          • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

            He knows more about this shit than you, and I will repeat again the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness has been shown to be a load of shit and the people who dreamed that up actually have no evidence or factual basis.

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 26, 2013 at 11:47 pm |

            He does?

        • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

          thank you for these intelligent replies among these imbeciles

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Nov 27, 2013 at 8:45 am |

          People always reside in the either-or camp. I think to understanding mental illness you have to triangulate the factors involved. ‘Physical’ (genetic, chemicals, nutrition) and ‘Psychological’ (education, learned cognitive-behavioural techniques, re-programming techniques). And then ‘Social’ which ties the other two together (family, work, relationships, community)

          Generally speaking anything to do with analyzing humans (intelligence studying intelligence) heads toward complexity rather than simplicity. As far as I can tell there is a multitude of factors that come together in asking the question of ‘why’ people suffer so much inside their heads as much as in their societies. I understand your frustration with the fixation on mechanical understandings of human beings or the ‘how’ question (chemical imbalance etc). Its just the people that are coming from one end of the triangle want to be recognized for their contribution to the field of knowing. Your coming from a social standpoint and from what i can tell calypso is coming from a physical standpoint. Both valuables ways of knowing, but incomplete when negating the other points.

      • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 8:45 pm |

        Define illness . Do it.

        Now, try to fit mental illness into that category. Go for it.

        You can’t. Do you know why?

        Mental illness, as defined by the DSM-5, currently, are not illnesses.

        They’re not like cancer, or the flu, they’re arbitrarily defined categories just like homosexuality was.

      • Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm |

        So if there are biomarkers and all this stuff you’re talking about then why is it that when someone goes to see a psychiatrist they’re interviewed with a checklist and then given a prescription without being tested for anything? find the cortical defects in all of these schizphrenics and I guarantee you a significant portion of them wont show it

        • Calypso_1 | Nov 26, 2013 at 11:50 pm |

          Those ‘checklists’ are made from experimental data. They are used for maladies other than those of the mind as well. The reason you are not tested is because the healthcare system will not pay for them at present, but it is coming.

          • Daniel Gill | Dec 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm |

            Schizophrenia and mania from shamanic ecstasy or enstasy can arrise spontaneously and if you study the ethnography on spirit possession illness you will find the proof of this. All over the world on every society on earth in every human inhabited continent, there is a tradition of spirit possession. it is a universal human experience. but medical science ignores it. until they take such common experiences by human beings seriously and ascertain how kundalini emergence (for instance, besides wendigo psychosis, arctic hysteria, qi gong deviation, we can go on) happens . I have read the proof in front of my eyes that schziphrenia is not an illness. neither is bipolar mania. there is no proof or evidence of mental illnesses. it is a fraud industry.

          • Calypso_1 | Dec 11, 2013 at 12:13 am |

            You are immensely ignorant and presume a great deal about the breadth of others experience.

    • So should a suicidal person kill other people rather than themselves?

      • Calypso_1 | Nov 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm |

        that is often part of the agony that is faced. or in wanting to kill another it is turned within.

      • mannyfurious | Nov 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

        Well, it’s assuming that the cause of the depression is that a specific person or persons isn’t dead.

    • “It’s no coincidence that studies routinely show that persons living in so-called 3rd-world countries don’t suffer from “mental illness” in the same way we do.”

      Studies do not routinely show that. It’s near impossible to do any comparison. According to WHO, 1/2 of all countries have only one psychiatrist per 200,000 people and 1/3 have no mental health care at all. There are not enough data to do routine studies. Although there is slight correlation between suicide and the HDI, the correlation between suicide and climate is stronger.

      I’d also like to point out that non-First World nations often place even greater emphasis on status, success, money, and masculinity, although that’s mainly in post-colonial societies.

  8. Daniel Gill | Nov 26, 2013 at 8:58 pm |

    This discussion is an example of why I am disappointed that Reality Sandwich want to go with the reddit model. mannyfurious is bringing intelligence here and he’s getting downvoted , pearls before swine

    • kowalityjesus | Nov 26, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

      Fortunately the crowd size is manageable to browse through fully. Take your sentiment a step further and ‘follow’ him.

  9. kowalityjesus | Nov 26, 2013 at 11:17 pm |

    It’s only after it becomes obvious that I will have a long-term relationship with a person that these ‘irrational superstitions’ become necessary to talk about. Otherwise, don’t no representative of authority need to know.

  10. Adam's Shadow | Nov 27, 2013 at 1:05 am |

    I personally think that there is such a thing as “mental illness,” just as there is such a thing as “mental wellness”; they are opposite ends of a spectrum, a very nebulous and controversial spectrum variously referred to in the West as “mind,” “psychology,” “spirit,” etc.

    Is most of the DSM bullshit when it comes to the definition of various types of “mental illness?” Well, yes; according to the NIMH itself (an authority most people here would rightly view with suspicion) about one in four adults in America suffer from some type of mental disorder. One in four. How accurate can the “official” medical idea of mental illness be if ON AVERAGE (not counting all the people that don’t report symptoms, that mask symptoms, and so on) at least one in four adults is some type of crazy? What about those that take medication, undergo counseling, or whatever, and supposedly become “cured?” Do they stop being ill? No – they just “control” their illness (according to the medical professionals), and that also skews the official numbers.

    Having a mental illness, then (following the logic of social and scientific elites), seems a lot like having a cold: everybody gets it at some point in their life, and far more often you alternate between long periods of “wellness” punctuated by shorter (even seasonal) periods of “illness.” So, yes, I think most people in the West, especially in America, have been or are some kind of “mentally ill” at some point, and thus the whole idea is somewhat absurd. But mental illness (especially clinical depression and bipolar disorder) runs on both sides of my family, and I also have several friends who are seriously ill, including a brother-in-law who is full-on paranoid schizophrenic. It’s a truly sad and frightening thing to watch him when he has a “bad day.” Some people are genuinely just sick in the soul, I believe. And it’s not just people like my friends and family: how many CEOs and Wall St. reptilian fuckers are certified psychopaths or narcissists?

    I think an important distinction needs to be made between mental illness/insanity (I realize I’m playing fast and loose with language here, but I think my points are still valid) as a prelude to initiation and tool of shamanic or spiritual practice, and insanity as a dysfunctional degeneration of the spirit. Some mental illness really is an illness, but some of it can be used, in moderation, in a positive way for personal growth.

    • Daniel Gill | Dec 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

      I just want to thumbs you up but also draw a distinction in spirit possession and spirit worship that it is the initiation itself that brings on the psychosis. and if you want to be a sorcerer, use talismans, commune with spirits, astral project, and so on.. it means being a manic psychotic schizophrenic woo woo. thats what a shaman is. they undergo a prolonged illness caused by the spirits and they learn to integrate and deal with themselves or they die or remain permanently insane. but there is no middle ground. even the victorian spiritualists had to undergo psychosis as a rite of passage. from Alex Owen’s The Darkened Room

      Forbes Winslow letter to the London Standard,

      [Spiritualism] is darkening, by its superstition the human mind, which, under its influence, falls into an abyss of mysticism of an unnaturally unfathomable depth.It is the curse of our age, andone of the principle causes of insanity in England, and especially of that desponding and melancholic type known as ‘religious insanity’, so prevalent in the present century [sic, DSM-IV, ‘Spiritual Emergencies’].

      a Mrs Lowe replies,

      this induces me to observe that, with a slight change of formula, Dr. Forbes Winslow’s statement in The Standard may be received as correct. If, instead of saying that ‘Spiritualism is filling English and American madhouses with lunatics’, he had said, ‘The doctors are everywhere confounding the mediumistic temperament with insanity, and filling their houses with undeveloped and unacknowledged mediums, who are thus gradually driven mad’, he would have been right. I have myself no doubt that of the 80,000 persons incarcerated in English and Welsh asylums, there are many thousands suffering from misunderstood, disorderly mediumship.

      the Lancet responds to Dr. Forbes Winslow,

      Dr. Lyttleton Forbes Winslow is accused of having overstated the number of insane patients in the United States whose malady is alleged to have been caused by ‘Spiritualism’. He stated that there were tens thousand cases of lunacy ascribed to this source. The assertion was so manifestly preposterous, and evinced so little acquaintance with the subject, that we did not deem it worthwhile to contradict it. The trouble which has been taken to disprove the statement is surprising. Everybody who read the announcement when it was made must have felt that it would be held to be extravagant. It is perfectly well known that the insane population of the United States, all told, scarcely exceeds forty-five thousand. To allege that one in four or five of the total number was a case of derangement due to spiritualism, was to tax incredulity, and discredit an argument. Moreover, it must have occurred to most readers that… the author had been carried away by his reasoning. The laborious refutation of the statement which has been effected was unnecessary.

      W. H. Harrison,

      I was myself incarcerated and otherwise restrained as a lunatic for eighteen months, on the sole ground of claiming to be a passive or automatic writer. Mrs — at Plymouth, and others, too numerous to name, have been and are constantly incarcerated for speaking of spiritual visions. In short, numbers are being daily severed from all usefulness and enjoyment in this life, because they claim communion with a higher.

      • Adam's Shadow | Dec 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

        “…it means being a manic psychotic schizophrenic woo woo. thats what a shaman is. they undergo a prolonged illness caused by the spirits and they learn to integrate and deal with themselves or they die or remain permanently insane. but there is no middle ground.”

        I get that, and largely agree with what you are saying: initiation is an intense, catastrophic process, and it’s not really feasible to “have your cake and eat it, too.” However, I have personally seen and known (still know) several people who are intelligent “psychotic schizophrenic woo woo,” and despite their deep belief that there is something powerful and true about their abnormal experiences, I am very much suspicious that this is the case based on their selfish and destructive behavior and actions. If anything, they have their “wires crossed,” and can’t make sense of the (what I would call) psychic and spiritual data they are receiving, but they themselves have no interest or calling for any sort of shamanic or initiatory role. Many of them, at any rate; I certainly acknowledge that there are those who are considered mentally ill or insane, when they are, in fact, just sick because of the society we live in, and their “mediumistic temperament” is misinterpreted as “schizophrenic woo woo.”

        I don’t really consider myself to be a shaman, by the way, I just have a strong affinity and respect for it as an alternative form of being and knowledge.

        • Daniel Gill | Dec 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm |

          Jeffrey J. Kripal speaking on the mediumistic consciousness. like in the Japanese anime film Akira, serendipity, coincidence, etc… becomes debilitating . the psychotic spiritual awakening is one in which you are in constant communication with the world around you

    • Daniel Gill | Dec 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

      here’s another great clip

  11. From what I understand, you can get the plants themselves, seperatly, but you’d have to brew them up yourself.
    This is not recommended. I wouldn’t do it. To me, that’s just asking for trouble. A much better idea is to do it with an experienced and ethical shaman that is part of a lineage or tradition, doesn’t really matter too much which one.
    This could be just my personal bias. I know there are people out there brewing up all kindsa stuff. Pharmahuasca. To me, theses guys are like the psychic version of BASE jumpers, or people who, fancy going over Niagra in a barrel. Way too gnarly for me. With the traditional shamanic lineage, it’s more like diving, where you’ve got experienced instructors and dive masters right there, you’ve been briefed and you have a plan, etc.

    • InfvoCuernos | Nov 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm |

      I hear you on that. I have personally seen some bad reactions to DMT that was homebrewed. Nothing too too terrible, but hives that lasted for about a week after use. Enough to warn me away from it. There is way too much Nature out there that will kill you dead, and a lot of psychedelic compounds evolved as self defense for plants so its risky to go off the known paths. I know a lot of people out there think that “God” put psychedelics out there so you can talk to him, but Belladonna will kill you way easier than it will connect you to God’s private line.

  12. ginabeab | Dec 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm |

    my mom is mentally ill and prior to diagnosis she was just visibly confusing to outsiders that people pushed their children indoors and away from me and though I could have used those kinds of memories as a crystal ball I had (until I finally resigned) remained optimistic that to hear about my mother a man would be accepting. never the case. people do not understand and I don’t even understand except I know even the people who ran like hell in the opposite direction from me I would not wish the mental anguish and extreme, extreme fear I have witnessed my mother experience on anyone. it’s painful and the pain doesn’t really ever leave. it’s painful because you LOVE the person (I love my mother) experiencing the incomprehensible.

  13. Michelle Tester | Dec 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

    I have never been “Right” in my head, nor have I ever tried to hide it. I have never been discriminated against due to my mental illness. I have openly answered others questions & have led others to seek help them self. Once you really start looking closer at ppl as a whole, you will notice that everyone has an issue/vice. I have never been fired from a job, nor lost friends.. I am the realist person you will ever meet, I call it all how I see it. I have lots of friends, I have the most amazing husband & beautiful children. There is nothing wrong with being “Crazy”, I would hate to be “Normal & Sane”

    • Daniel Gill | Dec 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

      You bring up an important point. We’re all crazy. I would suggest that , in my opinion, a world where everyone is arbitrarily sick is not the world i want to live in or for my children. medical industry preys upon peoples insecurities about their health . now the latest market is preying on insecurity of gender. its all business. the readers here should know better

Comments are closed.